Today is the birthday of Eberhard Anheuser (September 27, 1806-May 2, 1880). He “was a German American soap and candle maker, as well as the father-in-law of Adolphus Busch, the founder of the Anheuser-Busch Company.
Anheuser grew up in Kreuznach, where his parents operated a vineyard that had been in the family since 1627. He and two of his brothers moved to America in 1842. He was a major creditor of the Bavarian Brewery Company, a struggling brewery founded in 1853. When the company encountered financial difficulty in 1860, he purchased the minor creditors’ interests and took over the company.
Eberhard Anheuser became president and CEO and changed the company name to the Eberhard Anheuser and Company. His daughter Lilly married Adolphus Busch, a brewery supply salesman, in a double wedding with Anna Anheuser (Lilly’s older sister) and Ulrich Busch (Adolphus’ brother) in 1861. Despite the outbreak of the Civil War, the brewery remained competitive, partially because lager was not banned by the Union Army, while other hard liquors were. As Anheuser became older, Adolphus Busch took up more of the companies duties, and the company was renamed Anheuser-Busch in 1879.
Here’s a short biography from Find-a-Grave:
Businessman. Born in Kreuznach, Germany in 1843, he settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was joined shortly thereafter by his family. For the early part of his entrepreneurial career, people associated him with a completely different product, that product was soap. It is unknown whether he trained as a soap manufacturer in Cincinnati, if this training was part of his education as a chemist in Germany. In 1845 Eberhard and his family moved to St. Louis. Eberhard became a brewer just as changes in American consumer behavior sparked massive growth in beer consumption. Over the course of his career, the American brewing industry began a transition from being mostly small-scale in production, locally based in market, and limited in its competitive nature into an industry known for its acute competitiveness, rapidly expanding production capacity, and internationally expanding market. Although these new trends came to full fruition during the twenty years after Eberhard’s death, he witnessed their birth during his twenty-year career as a brewer. Eberhard made several contacts within the German brewing community. Some became lifelong friends, such as William J. Lemp, the largest brewer in St. Louis at the time. Others became relatives. Eberhard met a young brewery supplier named Adolphus Busch, and his older brother Ulrich, who ended up marrying Eberhard’s daughters Lilly and Anna in a double ceremony in 1861. The company became Anheuser-Busch in 1879. The partners agreed to expand the brewery continually with reinvested money from increased sales, so that the 8,000 barrels produced in 1865 shot to 141,163 by the time of Anheuser’s death in 1880. Using this strategy, the brewery grew so much that it received notice as a local landmark during Eberhard’s lifetime. Eberhard died in 1880, after a long struggle with throat cancer. He was 73 years old.
An illustration from One Hundred Years of Brewing of Eberhard Anheuser’s Bavarian Brewery, c. 1860.
Immigrant Entrepreneurship has a lengthy, and through, biography of Eberhard Anheuser:
At present, Eberhard Anheuser’s (born September 27, 1806 in Kreuznach, French Occupied Electoral Palatinate; died May 2, 1880 in St. Louis, MO) name is synonymous with beer and the brewing industry. However, for the early part of his entrepreneurial career, people associated him with a completely different product — soap. From one perspective, the story of his career in these two industries is one of continuity. From beginning to end, his forty-four-year entrepreneurial career in America was closely intertwined with connections to family members and to the German immigrant community. From another perspective, his career epitomizes change. Anheuser became a brewer just as changes in American consumer behavior sparked massive growth in beer consumption. Over the course of Anheuser’s career, the American brewing industry began a transition from being mostly small-scale in production, locally based in market, and limited in its competitive nature into an industry known for its acute competitiveness, rapidly expanding production capacity, and internationally expanding market. Although these new trends came to full fruition during the twenty years after Anheuser’s death, Anheuser witnessed their birth during his twenty-year career as a brewer. Accordingly, his story makes an illustrative case study of the transition between old and new trends in the nineteenth-century, American brewing industry.
Family and Ethnic Background: In the Land of the Fickle Fruit
Eberhard Anheuser was born on September 27, 1806, in Kreuznach, a historically Germanic region along the Rhine that at the time was occupied by Napoleonic French forces. It later became part of Rhenish Prussia. Although his name became famously associated with the beer industry, Eberhard actually started out as one of a long line of Anheusers engaged in the production of wine. The Anheuser vineyard was founded in Kreuznach in 1627, and is at the time of this writing under the direction of the fourteenth generation of the Anheuser family. Since by the time of Eberhard Anheuser’s birth the family’s vineyard had been conducting business successfully for almost 180 years, the question arises as to why he did not just stay there to carry on this family tradition.
Although it is not known why Anheuser left his homeland for America in 1843 when he was already in his late thirties, married, and with children, German history points to several converging economic factors that were making it harder for vintners to succeed, which may have influenced his decision to emigrate. Since the southwestern German lands were a region of divisible inheritances, it was customary for landholders in the area to divide estates among their heirs, rather than deliver them intact to a single heir. Although agricultural productivity was increasing with the advent of new farming methods, the population was increasing much faster, leading to land shortages, which caused land prices to skyrocket. The cost of acquiring land was beginning to outweigh the possibility of profit to be made by cultivating it. Additionally, the grape is a fickle fruit. It needs just the right conditions to thrive, and fails easily. Crop failures, like those that were common in the region in the 1830s, increased the financial strain on vintners, often leading to the accumulation of large debts, especially among those with smaller landholdings. In order to ensure the success of the business in the face of crop failures, it was important to cultivate enough land to build up sufficient reserves of wine during the good years to offset the losses in the bad years. In this environment, subdivision of property could spell economic disaster for the heirs of vintners. While the southwestern German lands would experience record grape harvests later in the 1840s, this was not the trend in the years leading up to Anheuser’s departure in 1843.
The problem of land shortages was compounded by a decline in profits. Because of the 1818 Prussian Tariff Rule, Rhenish winegrowers were protected from competition from French wines, and possessed something of a monopoly in the Prussian wine trade, leading to sustainable high prices. However, interstate tariff rates were lowered, first by an agreement between Prussia and Hesse in 1828, and then by the creation of the Zollverein customs union in 1834. This exposed Rhenish Prussia to increased competition with other German wine producing states. By the mid-1830s, prices were about one-fourth as high as in 1826. Also, as a result of the crop failures of the 1830s, the chemist Ludwig Gall promoted a technique of wine sweetening in the region in order to counteract the effects of harvesting unripened grapes. The influx of cheap, sweetened wine in the market drove down prices for vintners producing middle and lower-quality varieties. Wine prices also suffered due to the rise of cheaper alternatives, such as alcoholic spirits made from distilled potatoes. Although prices rebounded from their low point in the mid-1830s, regional prices fell by about fifty percent overall between the late 1820s and early 1840s, when Anheuser left the region. Profits were further lessened by the sharp increase in the price of wood, which was needed for the stakes that were vital for supporting grapevines and the barrels used to store and ship wine. Additionally, taxes in the region were high, and food prices were rising. Vintners especially suffered from increased food prices because they had to purchase much of their food, since most of their land was tied up in the cultivation of grapes.
If there was not enough production capacity in a piece of land that one owned, or stood to inherit, to compensate for crop failures, high taxes, falling wine prices, and rising food prices, emigration became more alluring. Therefore, many educated, middle- to upper-class children of vintners immigrated to America in the 1830s and 1840s in a quest to maintain the economic standing they stood to lose if they stayed where they were. It is likely that Eberhard Anheuser was one of this number.
An illustration from One Hundred Years of Brewing of Eberhard Anheuser’s Bavarian Brewery, c. 1860.
Business Development: A Slippery Start
Eberhard Anheuser’s business career in America got off to a slippery start. That is to say, he worked in the soap manufacturing industry. After arriving in America in 1843, Anheuser settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was joined shortly thereafter by his wife, Dorothea, his sons William and Adolf, and his daughters, Anna, Minna, Lilly, and Hermine. Although it has been stated that before emigrating “he had fitted himself, both by education and experience, to enter upon a successful career as a man of affairs,” the exact nature of these affairs during his first two years in Cincinnati remain a mystery. In one of his obituaries, Anheuser was remembered as “an energetic businessman” and a “talented technician and chemist,” who was “trained as a soap manufacturer.” It is unknown whether he trained as a soap manufacturer in Cincinnati, if this training was part of his education as a chemist in Germany, or if he picked up this skill in St. Louis, where he settled for good.
What is known is that Anheuser’s business career in St. Louis always had strong ties to the city’s German population. After Anheuser came to St. Louis in 1845, he worked in the soap factory of William D’Oench. About ten years Anheuser’s junior, he was a German from Prussian Silesia who had immigrated to St. Louis in 1841. D’Oench had studied medicine and chemistry, and ended up becoming a wholesale druggist, merchant, and soap manufacturer. He was also involved in several other business ventures, some of them involving Eberhard Anheuser, before re-immigrating to Stuttgart in 1872. It is unknown whether Anheuser was an employee or partner in the D’Oench and Ringling soap and candle factory. It is possible that this is where Anheuser completed his education in the soap industry. The pair remained on good terms, and continued to do business with each other after Anheuser left D’Oench’s factory in 1852. Later in the 1850s, Anheuser had stock in the Franklin Insurance Company/Franklin Savings Institution, where D’Oench served as president and in which almost all of the company officers were German. In 1860, the two partnered to take over a struggling brewery.
Although most of Anheuser’s business relationships were with fellow German immigrants, he also partnered at times with American-born businessmen. For example, in 1852 Anheuser became a partner with Lawrason Riggs, a native New Yorker about ten years his junior, in the Riggs & Co. candle, soap, and lard oil factory (often confused with Riggs & Levering, the name of the wholesale grocery and merchant’s shop where Riggs was also a partner). Anheuser’s partnership with Riggs lasted for five years, and was replaced with a four-way partnership with another native-born American and two fellow German immigrants. In March 1857, Anheuser’s partnership with Riggs was dissolved and he joined up with Nicholas Schaeffer, Anheuser’s former competitor in the candle and soap business and a longtime friend. Schaeffer was from Alsace, which, like Kreuznach during the Napoleonic era, was an area along the Rhine that contained a large ethnic German population but belonged to France. Schaeffer also originally immigrated to St. Louis via Cincinnati, although roughly a decade before Anheuser’s arrival. On May 1, 1857, Schaeffer and his partners, German immigrant Adolph Krauss and native-born American entrepreneur James Reilly, announced that Anheuser had become a full partner in the N. Schaeffer & Co. soap, candle, and oil factory. The company was then renamed Schaeffer, Anheuser & Co. Schaeffer and Anheuser soon began building a new factory, finished in February of the following year, which they promised would help them “fill orders in our line with dispatch, on the most favorable terms.”
Anheuser’s business career was also heavily intertwined with his family relationships. Shortly after partnering with Schaeffer, Anheuser brought in his eldest son, William, to serve as foreman in the company. It seems Anheuser’s relationship with William was somewhat complex and, to some degree, strained. Perhaps their relationship suffered after Anheuser’s wife, Dorothea, died in 1854 at the age of thirty-nine, leaving Anheuser a single father to the eighteen year-old William and his five younger siblings. It is clear that Eberhard invested heavily in William’s future, and had high hopes for him early on. He started by putting William in private school with Professor Edward Wyman, a leading local educator from Massachusetts. Under Wyman, he received “careful instruction in both the English and German languages.” Apparently, William was meant to succeed Eberhard in the soap business, as he had worked with his father for a number of years before being made foreman, and was given “particular attention to the study of chemistry” in his schooling. On June 28, 1862, Anheuser announced the dissolution of his partnership with Schaeffer, Reilly, and Krauss, and started a new soap, candle, and oil business with William as a full partner under the name of E. Anheuser & Son. While the Anheusers’ partnership only lasted about five years, Schaeffer & Co. continued to thrive, focusing more on lubricants and oil over time. Today, the company is still based out of St. Louis and is known as the Schaeffer Manufacturing Company.
In 1864, the Anheusers brought in Constantine (Constanz) Peipers, a Prussian about William’s age who was involved in real estate and insurance sales, as a full partner in their company, which was renamed Anheuser, Peipers & Co. The 1867 St. Louis City Directory shows that the partnership was dissolved when William started a new soap and candle company with Hermann Eisenhardt, another Prussian about his age. After this, Eberhard Anheuser apparently dropped out of the soap business for good. William’s new partnership, Anheuser & Eisenhardt, lasted until 1872, when Eisenhardt purchased his share in the business and William left for California, from which he did not return until 1882, two years after Eberhard Anheuser’s death.
It has been reported that William helped start a large soap factory in California. However, there is no record of his business activities there for his first five years. The William Anheuser that emerged in 1877 in Oakland seems a far cry, financially speaking, from the one who left St. Louis. Whereas he had been a full partner in two soap and candle businesses in St. Louis, William was listed only as a foreman for the Standard Soap Company in the 1877-1881 Oakland City Directories. In the 1880 census he was labeled a “workingman” instead of an “owner.” It is certain that Eberhard and William had a major falling out, due in part to financial issues. When Eberhard died in 1880, he left William only one dollar, giving what would have been William’s share, “less the sum I have heretofore given and advanced to my son William, ” to trustees for William’s children. Eberhard allowed the trustees to use up to $5,000 (approximately $113,000 in 2011$) as they saw fit to take care of William and his family. Anheuser ordered that the remainder of this share be reinvested in another family business until William’s children came of age. It was this second family business — a brewery — that secured the financial fortunes of generations of Eberhard Anheuser’s descendants. However, this ultimate success sprang from a series of failures.
A Different Kind of Suds
Although beer was not unknown in St. Louis prior to Anheuser’s arrival in the 1840s, it was not anywhere near the drink of choice. Other spirits were preferred that were cheaper, traveled more easily, and stayed potable longer, such as cider and whiskey. It was not until the massive influx of German immigrants in the 1840s and 1850s that beer became worth producing at commercial levels in St. Louis. Still, the beginnings of the industry were inauspicious. According to one account, there were only six breweries in operation in the city in 1845, with none having the capacity to brew more than twenty-five barrels on a given day.
The wave of German immigrants that flooded the city in the following decades brought with them a taste for beer. One type in particular, lager beer, quickly became the most popular type of beer in America. Lager is a lighter, clearer, crisper brew that uses a special type of yeast which ferments on the bottom of the brewing vat. The top-fermenting American and English ales, porters, and stouts being produced in small-scale operations prior to 1840 were initially not very popular. The top-fermenting yeast they used reacted differently in America than it did in Europe, often resulting in a bitter tasting final product that spoiled extremely quickly. Lager beers were more difficult and time-consuming to produce. They required access to higher quality water and needed a long period of cold storage during and after the fermentation process (the root word “lagern” means “to store”). This made lager a seasonal product in the era before mechanical refrigeration. However, the bottom-fermenting yeast used in lager did not become bitter, and the final product lasted a long time if kept cool. Because of its access to good water, ice from the banks of the Mississippi in the winter, and a bevy of caves and caverns nearby that served as a natural source of refrigeration, St. Louis was an excellent site for lager brewing. This was not lost on the German-American entrepreneurs in the city. St. Louis housed thirty-six breweries in 1853. Over half of their annual production of 216,000 barrels was lager beer. A miniscule part of that number was provided by Georg Schneider, a Bavarian immigrant who had built a small brewery in 1852. Although placed advantageously next to a large portion of the city’s German population in South St. Louis, Schneider’s brewery was a small affair. It produced only about 500 barrels annually after five years in business.
Still, Schneider’s sales grew enough that he felt an expansion was in order, so in 1856 he built a new brewery on Eighth Street in the city block between Arsenal and Pestalozzi. He nostalgically named it “The Bavarian Brewery.” Unfortunately for Schneider, the next year ushered in the Panic of 1857, which hurt his profits and effectively destroyed access to the necessary credit and investment capital needed to keep his business alive. Thus, Schneider was forced to sell his brewery to Philipp Hammer, an immigrant from Baden, on December 11 of that year. Hammer’s brother Carl soon joined him at the Bavarian Brewery, and the two formed a partnership, named C. and P. Hammer & Co. However, neither of them had any brewing experience, so they left the business to their brother, Adam, in 1858. In December of that year, Adam formed the partnership Hammer & Urban with Dominic Urban, the head of the city’s board of assessors. The pair borrowed heavily in 1859 to augment the brewery’s production capacity. While the previous owners of the brewery had only produced scant hundreds of barrels annually, Hammer & Urban boosted production to around 3,200 barrels. Sadly, demand for their particular brand did not increase at anywhere near such a rapid pace, and the partners soon went bankrupt.
In 1860, the duo’s major creditors came calling — one of whom was Eberhard Anheuser. Rather than try to sell the brewery and parcel out the proceeds with Hammer & Urban’s other creditors, Anheuser decided to buy them out and take over the brewery himself. In order to do this, Anheuser partnered with his old friend and business associate William D’Oench. The business was renamed E. Anheuser & Co. Although the burden of running two separate businesses was draining, Anheuser continued his role with Schaeffer, Anheuser & Co. If Anheuser was already a successful businessman, why take on this extra responsibility? If it was because he sensed that economic and demographic trends were creating a more favorable business climate for breweries, he was correct.
Illustration of Eberhard Anheuser and Adolphus Busch’s Bavarian Brewery, ca. 1878. The illustrator documents the brewery’s expansion over the past two decades (when compared with the 1860 image) and its access to both railroad and river transportation, which would have been used to ship barrels of beer. The illustrator also shows that the rail cars in the foreground are owned by E. Anheuser Co., as well as the steamboat, which is named Adolphus Busch. The drawing does not completely correspond to reality, however, since the illustrator has removed the U.S. arsenal, which would have stood between the brewery and the railroad track and Mississippi River, from the drawing. From Joseph A. Dacus and James William Buel, A Tour of St. Louis: Or, The Inside Life of a Great City (St. Louis, Western Publishing Company, 1878).
Riding the Amber Wave
Whether he knew it or not, Anheuser was riding the wave of the future. Between 1840 and 1860, annual per capita beer consumption in the United States tripled from 1.3 gallons per capita to 3.8 gallons per capita. A massive decline in the consumption of hard liquor, ostensibly due to the rise of the American temperance movement in the first half of the nineteenth century, was one of the reasons for the emergence of beer drinking during these years. Reformers linked crime and other social ills with the consumption of hard liquor, and fought to curb its use. At peak consumption in 1830, Americans consumed an average of 5.2 gallons of whiskey and 15 gallons of hard cider per capita, resulting in a per capita absolute alcoholic intake of 3.9 gallons. By 1845, whiskey consumption had declined to 2.1 gallons per capita, cider consumption had become negligible, and the absolute alcoholic intake dropped to only one gallon per capita. As the American temperance movement began to lose steam near midcentury, due in part to disagreements between those who favored temperance (the limited and responsible use of some alcoholic beverages) versus prohibition (the prohibition of all alcoholic beverages), lager beer was perceived as a compromise drink. Although the German population in America was growing rapidly, beer was becoming widely embraced outside of this group. It was marketed as a healthful, less-intoxicating alternative to the hard liquors that reformers attacked as dangerously intoxicating, immoral, and unhealthy.
This was seemingly the trend in St. Louis, as well. According to one article from 1857, beer was now “well nigh universally adopted by the English-speaking population; and the spacious bier halles and extensive gardens nightly show that the Americans are as fond of the Gambrinian liquid as those who have introduced it.” The article concludes that lager beer’s “general adoption in the place of spirits has been a benefit, both to the health and to the morals of the community.” National statistics also speak to this trend. Before 1840, per capita beer consumption in America had been negligible. It increased exponentially afterwards. From 1855 onward, beer reigned undisputedly as America’s drink of choice. While per capita hard liquor consumption remained stable and relatively low over the next several decades, per capita beer consumption increased greatly. Between 1863 and 1880, the year of Eberhard Anheuser’s death, per capita beer consumption tripled again from 2.1 gallons per capita to 7.4 gallons per capita. Simply put, due to a combination of the rapidly increasing German-American population, a trend toward greater urbanization (beer was primarily an urban drink), the business savvy of German-American brewers, the American public’s increased demand for lager, and the emergence of beer as a compromise drink for temperance advocates, Anheuser took over the Bavarian Brewery in a booming market for beer. All he had to do to be successful was to secure a share of this market.
Ethnic and Family Networks
Anheuser made several contacts within the German brewing community. Some became lifelong friends, such as William J. Lemp, the largest brewer in St. Louis at the time. Others became relatives. Anheuser met a young brewery supplier named Adolphus Busch, and his older brother Ulrich, who ended up marrying Anheuser’s daughters Lilly and Anna, respectively, in a double ceremony in 1861. The Busch brothers eventually joined Anheuser and D’Oench at E. Anheuser & Co. — Adolphus as a partner and Ulrich as a bookkeeper. Perhaps Anheuser was trying to ease the complications of running two businesses at once when he brought in Busch at the brewery and Peipers at the soap factory in 1864. This would make sense, given the historic events that added further complications to Anheuser’s already complicated business situation.
The Civil War broke out in 1861, the year after Anheuser took over the brewery. While many aspects of business were disrupted in St. Louis during the Civil War, there were certain advantages to selling beer there at this time. For example, many Union troops were stationed in the city. Although intoxicating beverages were banned from army camps, lager beer was not considered intoxicating by Union doctors. It was therefore a product sought after by Union soldiers. Also, the Federal arsenal was right down the street from the brewery (hence the name “Arsenal Street”), which probably gave Anheuser and D’Oench access to sell their wares to Union troops in the area, many of whom happened to be German. Even Anheuser’s soap business benefitted from the Union Army’s presence. For example, Anheuser was awarded an army contract for 100,000 lbs. of soap in 1865. Economic factors aside, many Germans felt the need to prove their loyalty to the Union. In fact, militias comprised mainly of German volunteers played a pivotal role in keeping St. Louis from falling to the Confederacy. Throughout the war, Germans continued to serve as a solid backbone for the support of the Union and the Republican Party in St. Louis. Eberhard Anheuser, his sons, and his sons-in-law were part of this backbone of support.
The Anheusers and Busches, like many German immigrants throughout St. Louis and the rest of Missouri, flocked to the Union cause. Many joined the Union Army to prove their loyalty to their new nation. This may have been a driving factor for Anheuser as well, as he had renounced his identity as a Prussian subject and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1848. Anheuser joined his son William and son-in-law Adolphus Busch in a three-month enlistment in the Union home guard stationed in St. Louis, which was composed mainly of German immigrants. Missouri was a border state, where much of the native-born, white, American population was split on the issue of secession. About a month after the Civil War started, a company of several hundred secessionists formed in St. Louis at an encampment they named “Camp Jackson” after Missouri’s secessionist governor, Claiborne Fox Jackson. The secessionists at Camp Jackson surrendered after being surrounded by a large Union force which predominantly consisted of Germans in the home guard, including the regiment of Private Eberhard Anheuser and Corporal Adolphus Busch. Although the secessionists gave up without a fight, the Union soldiers were harassed by an angry mob as they marched their captives back to the federal arsenal. Shots were exchanged between the soldiers and the crowd, which set off a period of mob violence lasting through the next day, resulting in several troop and civilian casualties. Although it aroused anti-German sympathies among some of the city’s population, the capture of Camp Jackson helped save the city of St. Louis, and therefore a sizeable portion of the state of Missouri, for the Union.
After his enlistment was up, Anheuser served on a committee that promised the support of the German Americans in St. Louis to General John C. Fremont, the Union military leader of Missouri in 1861. Anheuser also supported Fremont’s presidential bid in 1864, and contributed money publicly to help citizens suffering from the effects of the war in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. After the war, Anheuser and his sons, like many St. Louis Germans, kept up ardent support for the Republican Party. Therefore, when the Republican-led federal government called for a one dollar per barrel tax on beer, Anheuser and many other German brewers felt obliged to accept this measure as an act of loyalty, which substantially affected their profit margins, even if business was increasing. However, taxes were raised on other alcoholic beverages as well, so beer remained relatively cheap in comparison.
Production at Anheuser’s brewery more than doubled between 1862 and 1863, from 2,500 to 6,000 barrels. While this speaks to Anheuser’s managerial prowess, this level of growth was more than likely directly related to consumption by the Union troops garrisoned at the nearby federal arsenal. The brewery’s sales had been less than stellar thus far, causing production to stall between 1863 and 1864 and D’Oench to leave the partnership sometime during the latter year. Luckily, Anheuser already had a suitable replacement in Adolphus Busch, whose presence immediately changed the fate of the underperforming brewery.
Keeping It in the Family
Family connections were important to Eberhard Anheuser. After immigrating to America, he maintained a relationship with his relatives in Germany, and visited them often. One of Eberhard Anheuser’s nephews, August Anheuser, stayed with him while studying business in America. August later went on to start a wine exporting company with Adolf Fehrs, named Anheuser & Fehrs, and used his American business connections with the Anheuser and Busch families to set up a thriving wine export trade to the United States. Along the same lines, Eberhard sent his son Adolf to Rohrer’s Commercial College in St. Louis, then gave him a position at the E. Anheuser & Co. brewery. Adolf served in the brewery until his death in 1886. As William was groomed by his father to serve in the soap business, it seems Adolf was groomed to serve in the brewery. He was employed by the brewery as a bookkeeper as early as 1865, and eventually served as a board member after inheriting some of his father’s stock from the brewery’s incorporation. Unlike William, Adolf received a full share of his father’s estate. However, he never took over leadership of the brewery as William had in the soap factory. That role was filled by Adolphus Busch.
In the 1864 St. Louis City Directory, Adolphus Busch, Anheuser’s son-in-law, was listed as an owner alongside D’Oench and Anheuser. Although it is unclear how much of the brewery Busch owned or how active his partnership was at that point, it seems that he bought out D’Oench’s share fully by 1865. Like Anheuser, Busch was from a well-to-do family that did business on the Rhine. He hailed from Kastel (today known as Mainz-Kastel), in the province of Hesse, about forty miles upriver from Kreuznach. Busch’s merchant business, Wattenburg, Busch, and Co., specialized in providing brewery supplies, such as hops, malt, and barley to the breweries in St. Louis. Aside from this, Busch possessed a certain dynamism that made him an ideal candidate to revitalize Anheuser’s brewery. While many other businesses in St. Louis floundered due to the disruption of trade along the Mississippi River during the Civil War, Busch’s business flourished by engaging in the high risk/high reward cotton trade with steamboats making the dangerous trip between St. Louis and ports farther south.
Anheuser seems to have let Busch run the brewery, but the old man’s influence was still felt. He reportedly provided steady, sober advice and leadership that came from his years of experience, and possessed technical skills stemming from his education as a chemist. Busch was also an effective leader, but more of a salesman, innovator, and risk taker than Anheuser. Still yet, Anheuser seems to have been supportive of Busch’s new strategies, such as expanding the market into the Southwest to places like New Mexico and Texas, far away from the brewery’s staple customer base. He also allowed Busch to invest company money in important new innovations, like pasteurized bottled beer and refrigeration systems. Anheuser and Busch incorporated their business in 1875 as the E. Anheuser Brewing Association, Inc., which increased the amount of capital available and brought the prestige of a corporate title to the business. The partners agreed to expand the brewery continually with reinvested money from increased sales, so that the 8,000 barrels produced in 1865 shot to 141,163 by the time of Anheuser’s death in 1880. Using this strategy, the brewery grew so much that it received notice as a local landmark during Anheuser’s lifetime.
The way the shares were divvied up in the new corporation speaks to Busch’s dominant role. Although technically Anheuser was the president and Busch was the secretary of the new firm, Busch effectively served as the company head. Of the 480 total shares of stock, Anheuser kept 140, while Busch had 238, Lilly (Anheuser’s daughter and Busch’s wife) held 100, and their brewmaster was awarded 2. In 1879, the corporation was renamed the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association to reflect the reality of Busch’s leadership role.
When Anheuser died on May 2, 1880, after a long struggle with throat cancer, these stock shares were valued at $500 apiece (approximately $11,300 in 2011$). Anheuser left 23 shares, worth $11,500 (approximately $261,000 in 2011$), and a total of $7,426.07 in cash (approximately $169,000 in 2011$) to his children Anna, Lilly, Minna, and Adolf. He set aside the same amount to Gustava Klier, the only child of his late daughter, Hermine. As previously mentioned, William received only one dollar in cash, while the full share of cash and stock that would have been his was eventually passed on to his children by two trustees, Eberhard’s sons-in-law Adolphus Busch and Peter Schoettler (minus the undisclosed amount Eberhard gave William earlier and the $5,000 that had been earmarked for the trustees to help care for William and his children). While it was a common practice in the nineteenth century to subtract prior gifts to an heir from the total of his or her inheritance, the fact that Eberhard kept the remainder of the share out of William’s hands is evidence that the difficulties between the two went beyond mere matters of financial indebtedness.
Immigrant Entrepreneurship: Between Two Worlds
Eberhard Anheuser reportedly had a significant presence in the brewery until 1877, when he retired due to mounting health problems. He apparently possessed an “old world” mentality when it came to advertising, which impacted how his brewery conducted business. While advertising in print was unfashionable with many of the older, more firmly established breweries, the developing trend among modern brewers was to flood the pages of newspapers with ever more elaborate advertisements. Anheuser preferred to advertise the old way. According to this way of thinking, visuals, such as posters, were meant to be kept onsite at cooperating drinking establishments, where they continually advertised for free, as opposed to appearing in recurring newspaper ads, which cost money. Although Adolphus Busch would eventually alter the company’s advertising formula in the years after Anheuser’s death, it seems he at first agreed with the older man’s policies concerning print advertising. Until the turn of the century, the company focused more on advertising in person. They used fine horses (although not the Clydesdales associated with the corporation today) and freshly painted wagons to make a public spectacle of the delivery of Anheuser-Busch beer, handed out trinkets, and exploited publicity from the awards their beers won in the numerous fairs and expositions that erupted throughout major American and Western European cities from the 1870s onward. Most importantly, though, Anheuser and Busch hired talented and well-compensated beer agents who treated patrons to free drinks and offered credit to proprietors in drinking establishments in order to secure outlets for their product and develop a loyal consumer base at the personal level.
It would not be accurate to say that Anheuser-Busch did not utilize the power of print advertising effectively during Anheuser’s lifetime. The company just harnessed this power in unique ways that kept advertising expenses down. For example, on the day Anheuser died, the weekly copy of the leading German newspaper was flooded with advertisements from the city’s breweries. Some of these advertisements were quite large and ostentatious, and most likely cost a fair amount to keep running constantly in print. Yet, an ad from Anheuser-Busch is nowhere to be found. Instead, the company appears in an article in the main text of the paper. It reads, “Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association is without a doubt on the same level as the most important breweries in the city after this year’s demonstration. The unparalleled success of this brewery is most strikingly demonstrated by the following figures….” The article then goes on to show that the brewery’s sales had more than quadrupled to 112,145 barrels in the year between April 30, 1879, and April 30, 1880, when compared with the 26,639 barrels sold in the year between April 30, 1875, and April 30, 1876. The release of these newsworthy statistics basically resulted in free advertising. Likewise, although the brewery sometimes ran ads for short stints publicizing awards won at certain expositions, it relied mostly on the free attention generated from such accolades, such as newspaper articles. It was not until after Anheuser’s death that Anheuser-Busch began to run newspaper ads more regularly, and began to place ads in national magazines. Even then, it was a slow transition. The one exception to the advertisement policy was Anheuser and Busch’s mutual friend Tony Faust, a restaurateur who advertised regularly in the papers and sometimes included advertisements (which were probably paid for jointly by Anheuser-Busch) promoting Anheuser-Busch beer at his establishments. In sum, though, print advertisements for the brewery remained irregular and small in scale until several years after Anheuser’s death.
Anheuser seems like a man caught between two worlds. Both of the industries in which he participated remained relatively small-scale, local concerns through the 1860s. Although Anheuser left the soap industry before much had changed, the brewing industry changed mightily between when he took over the Bavarian Brewery in 1860 and his death in 1880. Improved technology, massive immigration, rising urbanization, the growing network of interconnected shipping and rail lines, and the embrace of modern industrial processes led to a trend of increased production, competition, and continuous expansion among the nation’s top breweries. What started off as a small-scale industry dependent on a locally-based, ethnic clientele, where competition was often limited to individual saloons and restaurants near neighborhood boundaries, was morphing into an increasingly national and international industry composed of a dwindling number of rapidly expanding breweries locked in an increasingly competitive struggle to secure as much of the market as possible. The national statistics give evidence of this pattern. In 1870, 3,286 brewers produced 5,093,300 barrels of beer in America. In 1880, 2,266 brewers produced 12,800,900 barrels. In 1900, 1,751 brewers produced 39,330,000 barrels. The same trend seems evident in St. Louis. The production statistics of Anheuser-Busch alone show that the 2,500 barrels produced in 1862 had grown to 141,163 in 1880, and 939,768 in 1900. Likewise, the city had forty-three breweries known to be in operation in 1860, twenty-five in 1880, and twenty-three in 1900.
Anheuser-Busch did not begin to compete seriously at the national level until after Anheuser’s death. At the time of Anheuser’s retirement in 1877, his brewery was not yet even in the top twenty largest national brewers, and was only the second largest in St. Louis. It was not until 1885, five years after Anheuser’s death, that Anheuser-Busch finally outpaced its closest local competitor, Anheuser’s friend William J. Lemp’s Western Brewery, to become the largest brewer in St. Louis. Yet, the industrial changes that Anheuser-Busch embraced to become the undisputed leader in American brewing by the turn of the century, such as aggressive expansion of the brewery’s production capacity, the adoption of innovative new technologies, and the development of new markets, were already having a major impact during Anheuser’s lifetime. The keys to national and international competition between shipping brewers were in the utilization of refrigerated railroad cars (pulled by a train) and railcars (self-propelled individual train cars) on the ever-expanding American railroad network, and the mass production and shipping of pasteurized bottled beer. By the late 1870s, Midwestern shipping brewers from St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati were competing in various cities as far apart as Los Angeles, Dallas, New Orleans, Memphis, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, D.C. By 1878, Anheuser-Busch was regularly shipping kegs of beer to various places around the country in refrigerated railroad cars on various railways, and also had a private fleet of 110 refrigerated railcars, which at any time could deliver beer to any place in the country connected to St. Louis by a rail line with ice depots along the route. On the other hand, pasteurized bottled beer could be shipped anywhere, and the marketplace became international for any brewery with access to a bottling works and reliable trade links to a major port, such as New Orleans. In 1878, Anheuser-Busch and Lemp were already competing on a limited scale in various port cities in South and East Asia, Australia, Hawaii, South America, the Caribbean Islands, and Western Europe.
Only about a year after Anheuser’s death, the consequences of all this increased production and competition hit Anheuser-Busch and the rest of the St. Louis brewing industry. In June of 1881, overtaxed workers initiated the city’s first brewery strike for better wages and shorter hours, which set the tone for the decade. A few months later, the Winkelmeyer brewery, one of the largest and most important in the city, cut its price from eight to seven dollars a barrel, due to pressure from rising competition with other brewers in the city. This violated a long-running price setting agreement among the cities brewers, and started a domino effect of retaliatory price-cutting that involved almost all of the city’s breweries within a day. Although the strike failed and the price agreement was soon restored, these events, which occurred so soon after Anheuser’s death, bear witness to the trends that had begun during his career in the brewing industry.
Social Status and Personality: They Called Him Papa
Because of his economic position, Anheuser had a significant presence in the German community near his brewery. German immigrant laborers, who provided almost all of the workforce in the city’s breweries, tended to cluster together in small ethnic communities, often living in boarding houses or apartments within walking distance of where they were employed. The salaries paid to Anheuser’s employees helped fund the churches, schools, and social institutions that strengthened the cultural bonds among the German community in this area. Anheuser himself also supported these institutions. For example, he invested in the local Germania Club and the Concordia Turners Hall that was located just down the street from his brewery. This helped make Anheuser a prominent social figure in the community.
Anheuser was also socially prominent among St. Louis’s German population as a whole. This was common for brewers. The consumption of beer was one of the culturally uniting factors in the scattered and divided St. Louis German-American ethnic community. While many Anglo-Americans promoted a somewhat Puritanical view of Sunday Sabbath observance, German Americans were conspicuous in their penchant for Sunday parties, organizational gatherings, picnics, and social engagements in local saloons. Because of the Sunday “blue laws” which restricted public gatherings deemed disruptive to the observance of the Sabbath and the sale and public consumption of alcohol in the city limits, many in the German-American ethnic community either headed to the outskirts of the city to parks and other open places to drink and recreate freely, or openly flouted the laws by going to a saloon. Many of these parks, open spaces, and saloons were owned and operated by German-American brewers. Consequently, several brewers became prominent leaders and organizers of recreational events and organizations in the German-American community. Many St. Louis Germans saw Anheuser as a paternal figure, and referred to him as “Papa Anheuser.” E. Anheuser & Co. was the biggest financial supporter of the city’s Saengerfest, an immensely popular singing competition held between ethnically German singing groups. Anheuser was a supporter and the oldest member of the Modoc Club, a rowing club filled with German citizens who honored Anheuser by naming a barge after him and providing an expensive floral work at his funeral. He also held a position of notability and respect among the brewers in St. Louis and in the national community of brewers. When Anheuser was too ill to attend the annual convention of the United States Brewing Association in 1879, a unanimous resolution of regret was passed.
In some ways, Eberhard Anheuser seems stereotypical when compared to other German-American immigrants and entrepreneurs in the mid- to late nineteenth century. Although he was middle-aged and married upon immigrating, which was uncommon, Anheuser, like most German immigrants in this period, likely left Germany for economic reasons, and ended up settling in areas with large populations of ethnic Germans. Although he had business contacts outside of the German community, most of his business partnerships in St. Louis were with other ethnic Germans, and he depended on German immigrants for his labor pool. Anheuser’s children all married spouses of German descent, and nearly all had business ties with him. Like many of his contemporaries, Anheuser’s economic and social status made him a leading figure in the local German community.
On the other hand, Eberhard Anheuser epitomizes a time of transition in an important American industry. Anheuser made the fortuitous decision to become a brewer shortly after American consumer trends changed to embrace the product he was making. As a response to the increased demand for lager beer after 1840, several little breweries, like the one Anheuser took over, were started in German communities, which provided the workforce and the initial consumer base for the industry. While the industry’s labor force and leaders remained predominantly ethnically German, beer was changing from a niche product aimed at local ethnic consumers into a widely embraced, nationally and internationally marketed product. The industrial processes that promoted the expansion of large-scale operations in other industries altered powerfully the brewing industry during the time of Eberhard Anheuser’s career. Adolphus Busch was more personally responsible for the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association’s transition into an industrial giant, and thus is a symbol for the new era in the brewing industry. However, Eberhard Anheuser was at least part of the process, and serves as a symbol of the transition between the two eras in American brewing. His tenure as an entrepreneur is exemplary of a changing business climate, in which increased production and growing competition between firms expanding continually made it harder for smaller businesses, like the one he took over in 1860, to compete. In short, Anheuser began his American entrepreneurial career in one era and ended it in another.
An ad from 1879.